Attention sports fans! If you haven’t heard of NBA 1951 champs the Rochester Royals, you REALLY need to check out Pat Farabaugh’s FREE talk about the team’s history this Saturday at 1 p.m. in the Rundel Auditorium. Throw on a pair of Converse and join us for the kickoff to the 2015/16 season of the Rochester’s Rich History series, “The Rochester Royals and the Legacy of Maurice Stokes and Jack Twyman”!
Love Rochester? Love history? You’ll love this — FREE monthly programs on our city’s history. With presenters who are experts on their subject matter, the programs feature a wide spectrum of Rochester-related topics. From the influence of the Dossenbach family on music in Rochester to a chronicle of the city’s Latino community, we’ve got your history covered.
Join us every third Saturday in the Rundel Auditorium for some Flower City stories you haven’t heard!
~Cheri Crist, Librarian
We can all agree that war is hell. Union soldiers finding themselves in enemy territory far from home and hearth were faced with the blast of artillery shells, unspeakable carnage on the battlefield, and primitive living conditions. In order to cope with the madness, soldiers made use of any free time in ways not always in keeping with their fine Christian upbringing.
The following excerpts are from a ledger used at a Union prison in Alexandria, Virginia, that documents the transgressions of errant Union soldiers during an active few weeks between April 13 and May 16, 1864. Each entry lists the prisoner’s name, regiment, company, charges, charging official, and remarks.
Although the ledger isn’t attributed to a specific prison, it is most likely from what was known as the Franklin and Armfield Office, which until 1861 was known as the epicenter of the domestic slave trade. Notations across the top of pages in the ledger denoting prisoners held in the “Slave Pen” further enforce the likelihood of its origin.
Charges noted in the ledger ranged from the popular desertion, drunkenness, and rioting to less-frequently perpetrated crimes such as insolence and forging a leave pass. Fewer still were instances in which visits to the local cathouse became unruly enough to warrant the attention of an arresting officer, as seen in this entry.
Neither were local madams immune to the law, as evidenced by two women, both named Mary Griffith, who were locked up not only for running a brothel, but for doing it on the Sabbath.
Several pages of the ledger are smeared with mud and debris as though the pages themselves are speaking to the violence they’ve seen. One can imagine a newly-arrested and angry soldier tearing it from the recording officer’s hands and flinging it to the ground.
War is hell, indeed.
~Cheri Crist, Librarian
We are launching a new exhibit in the Local History and Genealogy Division this week. Entitled “Vietnam Veterans: Serving Then and Now,” the exhibit focuses on the experiences and contributions of local veterans from the Vietnam War era. It is sponsored in partnership with the Central Library’s Science & History Division and the local Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 20.
We will be hosting a reception on Saturday, June 6, at 1pm in the Local History Main Hall (2nd floor, Rundel Memorial Building), followed by a lecture, “Telling the Stories of Rochester’s Vietnam-era Veterans,” in the Rundel Auditorium (3rd floor, Rundel Memorial Building) at 2pm. For more information, please see the flyer below. Hope to see you there!
~Michelle Finn, Deputy City Historian
Local genealogy and history blogger Dick Halsey has been spending quite a bit of time in the Local History & Genealogy Division lately making use of our new scanning equipment. He wrote about his experience in his blog this week: http://rochistory.com/blog/?p=4353.
Anyone can use the equipment for free. Be sure to check it out.
April 22, 2015, marked the 45th anniversary of Earth Day. A holiday first introduced by US Senator Gaylord Nelson and fellow environmentalists in 1970, Earth Day is now a world-wide celebration that seeks to raise awareness of environmental problems and human beings’ role in creating—and hopefully solving—them. Rochesterians use Earth Day, and usually the week—or even month—around it, as a time to reflect on their environmental impact, but also to work towards meaningful change in human-environment interactions. Taking a “think globally, act locally” approach, we plant flowers and trees, pick up litter, recycle, conserve water and electricity, hold environmental fairs, attend lectures, discuss films, commune with nature, and more, all in the spirit of conservation and beautification of our natural surroundings.
Had I written this post on Wednesday, as I had originally intended, I would have been able to wish you a Happy Earth Day. Alas, before I knew it, Wednesday became Thursday became Friday, and the post remained unwritten. Fortunately for me, today happens to be another worthy, environmentally related holiday: Arbor Day! Better still for me, a historian who appreciates such things, Arbor Day predates Earth Day by nearly a century. And so it works out that I am able to wish you a very timely, “Happy Arbor Day,” and tell you a little about the history of this holiday (as I am wont to do).
Arbor Day was first celebrated in the United States in Nebraska in 1872. The goal was to plant trees to “spruce up” the Great Plains, so to speak. The idea for a holiday devoted to trees originated with newspaperman, nature enthusiast, and upstate New York native Julius Sterling Morton. Morton and his fellow pioneers realized that trees were important for providing fuel, building materials, paper (and, thus, newspapers!), erosion control, shelter from the sun and wind, animal habitats, and more. Not to mention trees are pretty to look at. As Morton himself proclaimed, “The cultivation of flowers and trees is the cultivation of the good, the beautiful and the ennobling in man, and for one, I wish to see this culture become universal.” Beyond the pragmatic and aesthetic value of this natural resource, Morton recognized the responsibility humans have as stewards of their planet: “Each generation takes the earth as trustees. We ought to bequeath to posterity as many forests and orchards as we have exhausted and consume.”
Morton used his newspaper to spread the word about the value of trees and environmental stewardship and encouraged his readers to set aside a specific day to plant trees. In 1872, Nebraska’s Board of Agriculture backed his idea and declared April 10 the first official Arbor Day. Morton and his fellow Nebraskans reportedly planted over a million trees that year. Other states soon followed suit, including New York, with its 1888 “Act to Encourage Arboriculture.”
Since that time, Rochesterians have celebrated Arbor Day with the expected tree-planting ceremonies, some accompanied by more pomp and circumstance than others.
Washington Grammar School No. 26, on Clifford, was especially dedicated to celebrating the holiday in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, making Arbor Day the date of their annual picnic in Seneca Park. Our city’s enthusiasm for tree planting earned it recognition as a “Tree City USA” by the National Arbor Day Foundation in 1981, and every year since then.
Sometimes celebrated on April 22 (Morton’s birthday), Arbor Day has fallen anywhere from January to May, varying by year and location. When Earth Day appropriated the April 22 date in 1970, National Arbor Day became the last Friday in April (although different states still celebrate it at different times, depending on planting conditions). And so here we are, celebrating Arbor Day in Rochester on this last Friday in April 2015. Now go plant a tree! (By the way, our state tree is the Sugar Maple, for those of you who were wondering…)
~Michelle Finn, Deputy City Historian
 “What is Arbor Day?” Arbor Day Foundation newsletter, https://www.arborday.org/celebrate/documents/learn-more.pdf, accessed April 24, 2015.
Tomorrow, April 9, 2015, marks the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, represented by the historic meeting between Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, 1865. Here in Rochester, the Friends of Mount Hope will mark the anniversary by ringing the Mount Hope Cemetery north gatehouse bell at 3:15 p.m., joining bells in churches, temples, schools, city halls, public buildings, historic sites, and others across the land taking part in a National Park Service commemoration. A brief program will follow, featuring re-enactor representatives from both sides of the conflict, and period anthems played on fife and drum. It should be a fun and informative event!
CIVIL WAR COMMEMORATION EVENT
Thursday, April 9, 2015 at 3:00 p.m.
Mount Hope Cemetery North Gatehouse
791 Mount Hope Avenue, opposite Robinson Drive
Submitted by Sue O’Neill, Azalea Neighborhood Association & Friends of Mount Hope Cemetery